• Family feuds don’t just affect everyone directly involved; they have the ability to negatively affect the entire family.
  • When a family dispute occurs, holidays, birthdays, and special occasions can go from a joyful occasion to an awkward, tension-filled time.
  • Plan out the best course of action for you to take to help the situation at hand.
  • Attempt to make both parties feel heard, instead of lonely or isolated.  This can eliminate the potential for one side or the other to feel rejected by the family.
  • Offer a new perspective to the dispute.  Try bringing light to all of the positive and uplifting memories you have experienced as a family.
  • Finally, remember to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing in the process; don’t be afraid to seek extra support for yourself. 

A family feud (no, not the television game show) goes beyond the family members involved—it has the ability to affect the whole family.  When an argument between family members arises and is not quickly dissolved, it can lead to long-lasting, negative effects. In some instances, it can even result in the separation of tight-knit loved ones.

Imagine this: a headline MMA fight, with a strong rivalry between not only the fighters but their respective fans as well.  Now, imagine that rivalry existing between members of your own family. Each family member picks a side, and eventually the fight becomes detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the family.  When sides are picked, a line is immediately drawn between all of the parties involved. Holidays, birthdays, and special events are immediately awkward, and tension is always present. So, what do you do when members of your family argue and stop speaking?  

5 Tips for Handling Family Disputes

When disputes among family members arise, it is extremely tough to know how to act and react to the situation.  Maria Shifrin, Ph.D. states that the best course of action to take when your family members argue and stop speaking includes:

1. Remaining as neutral as possible.

To expand on Shifrin’s point:  In order to not get yourself involved in the argument, it is crucial to remain impartial between the two disputing groups.  Be sure to eliminate any sort of favoritism towards one side or the other.

2. Helping to navigate and repair.

This can be tricky, but if you can accomplish this while still being neutral, feel free to lead a conversation toward reconciliation.  Sometimes a conversation lead by a moderator can help dissolve the conflict at hand.

3. Listening to both sides.

To further develop Shifrin’s point:  Understanding both sides of the story can better help you comprehend how to help.  Explaining the situation from a different perspective can be beneficial in working out the problem.

4. Being kind and compassionate.

As tough as it is for you to witness your family members argue and stop speaking, it is just as emotional for them.  Show them compassion and assist them in resolving the conflict.

5. Trying not to offer any strong opinions or directives for what to do next.

According to Dr. Shifrin, try to say something like, “It’s hard for me to see you both so upset, there must be a way you can hear each other out and find a middle ground.”

According to Dr. Shifrin, the idea is to make each person involved in the dispute feel heard, rather than lonely or abandoned.  It is crucial to remain neutral and avoid choosing sides at all costs. Dr. Shifrin states that “when one person feels rejected, the anger and resentment only intensify.”

When Times Get Tough, Stay Strong

Being involved in or witnessing a family dispute can be extremely disheartening.  It can leave you confused, frustrated, and sad. However, it is imperative to remember to assist where you can and remain a neutral, constant member of the family.  Feel free to offer a different perspective on the situation and bring light to all of the pleasant memories the family has together. Remembering and appreciating fun times can override the feeling of anger and distress. 

Within a family, opinions and habits can vary tremendously, and more than likely, not everyone will agree on everything.  With that being said, when hard times strike, put the emotions aside and work on compromising to reach a decision.

Seeing people that you love argue can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. If the issue is prolonged, and your emotions of distress continue, it is okay to think about seeking outside help.  Your family is your backbone, and when issues arise it’s difficult—sometimes a little extra help can be just what you need.